Ryan Herz, Ivar Theatre 1982

Bill Dane, Ivar Theatre 1982

Beth Herzhaft, Ivar Theatre 1988

Norman Breslow, Ivar Theatre 1977

Anthony Friedkin, Ivar Theatre 1982

David Fahey, Ivar Theatre 1983


Camera Night at the Ivar
October 20 - November 25, 2012

"It's cold out there. Colder than a ticket taker's smile at the Ivar Theatre on Saturday night" Tom Waits - Nighthawks at the Diner

drkrm is pleased to present Camera Night at the Ivar, a group exhibition featuring rarely seen images from the Ivar Theatre in Hollywood, presented for the first time together.

Featuring photographs by: Norman Breslow, Bill Dane, David Fahey, Anthony Friedkin, Michael Guske, Ryan Herz , Beth Herzhaft, Paul McDonough

The Ivar Theatre in Hollywood has inspired lyrics in the songs of Tom Waits. Photographer Garry Winogrand's images of Ivar strippers have been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art. The Ivar started life as a legitimate performance theater when it first opened in 1951. Performers through the years have included Lord Buckley, Lenny Bruce and many others. Elvis made a movie there. The Grateful Dead played there in 1966. The theatre changed hands frequently and, in the 1970’s, it eventually became a full-nudity strip joint - one of the last standing “Burlesk” houses in the United States.

The Ivar was lewd and notorious in its day. It was described by its patrons as “a chamber of desperation, a mausoleum for souls -- on and off the runway.” Ross MacLean, one time stage manager and spotlight operator for two years, says "It's difficult to convey how bizarrely un-sexy and un-romantic the place was. A lot of the girls just danced around in street clothes, and took them off with about as much charm as someone undressing in a locker room.”

Ivar Theatre newspaper ad 1977 Ross MacLean Collection

Sunday and Tuesday evenings were camera nights, where for the cover charge the customers could take as many pictures as they liked. Each girl's show lasted twenty minutes; she was required to be fully undressed after five, and a minimum of five minutes was to be used with "floor work": moving about either seated or prone on the runway. If a customer put a dollar on the catwalk, the performer would give him an up-close and very personal view of her body. A dancer could do from one to three shows a day; for each they were paid seven dollars.

At the time the club drew many now-notable photographers including Winogrand (who according to historian John Szarkowski, shot 150 rolls of film there), Bill Dane, David Fahey, Paul McDonough and Anthony Friedkin to name a few. drkrm is drawn to curating this exhibit for many reasons. It was a time when these photographers were somewhat known but not on the level they are now and some were all part of a greater circle in New York City that also included Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander and Tod Papageorge. Some of them were good friends and used to shoot together, even following each other out to California.

On another level, what's intriguing is allowing photographs to be taken inside the club, it gives us an incredible look at an audience of voyeurs, normally protected by the cover of darkness. In that split second of the camera's flash, we can see the men in the audience, their facial expressions, how they're sitting, where they're looking or not looking. The late LA artist Mike Kelly described the behavior of the Ivar's male audience members, “as if drugged in a dentist’s chair, the men sit frozen and immobile. There is no show of emotion, no hooping, hollering or wild applause. Seances are livelier.” This exhibit is as much about the relationship between the women on stage and the men in the audience as it is about the actual image and the photographers who took them. The images in this show were captured in 1977 through 1989 when the Ivar closed.

This exhibition contains graphic nudity and explicit content.